Criminal charges have been filed against 15 current or former members of the Alpha Tau Omega fraternity at Washington State University Omega, over the alcohol poisoning death of a pledge, KXLY reports.
The charges, which prosecutors put through on Wednesday, concern the death of 19-year-old WSU freshman Samuel Martinez, who died of acute alcohol intoxication on November 12, 2019. Martinez had attended a frat event that night, allegedly partaking in an initiation process, according to the AP. The local coroner ruled his death an accident.
The 15 members of the fraternity who were charged are accused of supplying liquor to one or more pledges. In Washington state, providing liquor to minors is a gross misdemeanor that can net up to a year in jail and a $5,000 fine.
The ATO house has been closed since Martinez died. The Interfraternity Council also put in place a new policy that restricts alcohol at some events, according to KXLY.
Originally, police said hazing hadn’t led to the teen’s death, but reversed that decision after talking to witnesses.
Last year, Martinez’s parents filed a wrongful death lawsuit against both the school and the frat.
After the charges, Martinez’s family released a statement that said, in part:
“More than 18 months ago, our beloved son and brother, Sam Martinez, was hazed to death during an initiation ritual known as “Big-Little Night” at the Alpha Tau Omega fraternity at Washington State University in Pullman.
We have waited all these months for answers to our questions about what happened that terrible night.
Today, we learned that 15 men will finally be held to account for furnishing the alcohol that killed Sam that night and left many other pledges in Sam’s class dangerously intoxicated. In Sam’s case, he and another pledge were ordered to finish a half-gallon of rum between them. Sam’s blood-alcohol content was measured at 0.372 after his death, nearly five times the legal limit.
You can read their full statement here.